Lawrence Romo, director of the U.S. Selective Service System, explains to attendees at The American Legion 95th National Convention in Houston how selective service is still necessary. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

Selective service is ‘inexpensive insurance’

Lawrence G. Romo stood before several hundred colleagues gathered in Houston and announced proudly, “I am one of you.” Romo is, indeed, a veteran, a retired USAF Reserve Lieutenant Colonel and graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is also an active Legionnaire. But his appearance behind The American Legion 95th National Convention podium was prompted by his day job. Romo is the director of the Selective Service System.

Romo began his seven-minute Wednesday morning address on a familial note. “As the largest veterans service organization,” he said, “it is fitting that we lead the way in providing extensive, meaningful and necessary support to the (military’s) active and reserve components and the civilian workforce contributing (to our defense) today. The voice of The American Legion is the force to get this done.”

Romo then noted his own commitment to the organization. “I have been involved with the Legion for 15 years,” he said, “and served as my post’s 2nd vice commander.”

Besides his pride of service to the Legion, Romo also revealed good feelings about the quality of his work in Washington. “In 2009, President Obama selected me as the 12th director of the Selective Service System,” Romo said. “I am truly honored to serve as a sub-cabinet member in the administration and I have made my agency a model civilian organization exhibiting strong ethics and moral behavior. This is the key reason why we received the ‘2011 Most Improved Small Federal Agency Award’ from the Partnership for Public Service.”

Romo then explained the relevancy of the Selective Service System, America’s military conscription agency, in the era of an all-volunteer force. “Selective Service is still a very inexpensive insurance policy for deterrence, and our budget is the same budget as we had in the early 1980s,” he said.

Acknowledging and paraphrasing an article written by Past National Commander Tom Bock, Romo said, “We hear all the time that only 1 percent of our population actually serves (in) the United States Armed Forces. When you think about it, that’s pretty sad. After all, we all enjoy the freedoms that... citizenship guarantees.”

“Yet,” Romo continued, “we rely on that 1 percent as a volunteer force to protect us. We have a standing national resolution here in The American Legion titled ‘Retention of the Selective Service System.’ This resolution addresses the Selective Service System as an inexpensive insurance policy in a still dangerous and uncertain world against underestimating (the) number of military (personnel) needed to fight and win in future crises.

“With the close of the war in Iraq and the planned drawdown in Afghanistan, this historic link between the military and the society at large becomes more important,” Romo said.

Federal law requires male residents of the United States to register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday.